Unitil

    Unitil partnered with Sungard AS to develop BC plans for 19 business units and a DR plan for IT operations, building resilience into its operations.

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    Overview

    logo-unitil-200x100

    As an electric and natural gas utility serving customers in three New England states, Unitil is acutely aware of the impact storms can have. With a company culture that prioritizes emergency response, every employee has an alternate assignment during storm events and other natural disasters to assure a fast, effective response and rapid service restoration for customers.

    To assure the resilience of its own critical systems and processes, Unitil approaches its business continuity (BC) program with the same dedication. In addition to its own BC activities, the company recently consulted with longtime partner ROI Communications, who recommended and engaged Sungard Availability Services® (Sungard AS) consultants to review its BC plans and guide investments to become even more resilient in the face of the unexpected.

    Results

    • Clear direction for BC program structure, plans and next steps
    • Validated and refined BC plans
    • A holistic view of BC risks and priorities across all departments
    • Targeted investments to achieve higher levels of resilience

    About Unitil

    Unitil is a public utility holding company with affiliates that serve approximately 105,000 electric customers and 81,300 natural gas customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

    Business resiliency is all about continuous improvement. It’s about planning the strategy and mitigation for an interruption, while at the same time looking forward and saying, ‘What can we do to prevent this in the future?

    Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance, Unitil

    Challenge

    n 2017, we were ready to bring in some external expertise to help us take the program to the next level. Our goal was to gain a holistic view of the BC program across all Unitil business areas and to set priorities for next steps. We looked at several third-party consultants and Sungard AS was the one that stood out. They demonstrated both the business continuity and disaster recovery expertise we needed.

    Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance, Unitil

    Taking business continuity to the next level

    When a 2008 ice storm devastated the above-ground utility infrastructure across the U.S. northeast, it left millions without power. Like other New England utility companies, Unitil dealt with the extensive damage. Taking the lessons learned to heart, in 2009 the company established a dedicated team to focus exclusively on emergency management and business continuity as part of a multi-year plan.

    The team’s first order of business was to reinvent the emergency response structure and culture across Unitil, establishing the storm roles that still exist for every employee today, reinforced by ongoing training and periodic drills and exercises.

    As an electric and gas company charged with delivering 24/7/365 service, Unitil knew its business operations needed to be equally resilient. The team’s business continuity (BC) efforts focused primarily on critical process recovery, while addressing the growth, IT complexity and regulatory challenges common to many organizations.

    “Unitil had grown through acquisitions, and we were managing BC plans for multiple operating companies and a mix of modern applications and legacy systems—plus assuring compliance with three different state utility regulators,” says Jacklyn Ulban, Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance at Unitil.

    “Over several years, we built a solid framework for ongoing management of our BC program and plans,” she continues. “In 2017, we were ready to bring in some external expertise to help us take the program to the next level. Our goal was to gain a holistic view of the BC program across all Unitil business areas and to set priorities for next steps. We looked at several third-party consultants and Sungard AS was the one that stood out. They demonstrated both the business continuity and disaster recovery expertise we needed.”

    Solution

    Services deployed

    Business Continuity Consulting

    • Review existing BC program policy and framework
    • Conduct Business Impact Analysis
    • Develop BC plans for 19 different business areas
    • Prepare a comprehensive DR plan
    • Conduct plan validation exercise
    • Create a detailed report with recommendations for next steps

    Assessing the existing program

    Ulban worked closely with Sungard AS consultants to ensure the project scope aligned with specific Unitil objectives. Following a kickoff meeting with the Unitil leadership team, the consultants reviewed the existing BC program.

    Through interviews and research into the company’s systems and processes, the consultants found a program that was running well, backed with a sophisticated SharePoint repository that housed BC plan templates and drove stakeholder collaboration. Further, they found that the program adhered to the requirements of the ISO 22301 standard for business continuity management systems. 

    The initial gap analysis—documenting applications and systems and the DR support that IT currently provided for each—was another important milestone. 

    “Their assessment was a validation of the years of work by many people to get the company to that point. It confirmed that we really had a good framework in place, and helped clarify what we needed to do to take it a step further.”

    Engaging stakeholders, analyzing impact

    Next, Sungard AS consultants conducted workshops with department leaders and key staff members across 19 business areas. The consultants applied a structured approach and proven methods to draw out critical information, then organized the results into two key documents: a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), and the initial drafts of the BC plans.

    The BIA identified and documented the critical processes for each business area, their corresponding recovery requirements, and the operational and financial impact if those processes were interrupted. It also considered the impact on Unitil’s customer service, contractual requirements and reputation, along with legal and regulatory concerns. 

    “We asked Sungard AS to focus on specific areas already identified as either the most critical, the most vulnerable, or the most highly impactful,” says Ulban. “We had all of this expertise and institutional knowledge in the room and the interviews were a huge learning opportunity. We were asking the process owners to take a step back and look at their operations—and also step up and take responsibility for their critical processes.”

    With the BIA, Unitil gained an essential foundation for the updated BC plans, as well as a way to prioritize future IT investments in disaster recovery.

    Developing BC plans

    The first plan that Sungard AS submitted for review covered a critical Unitil department: Customer Service. “We were very excited to see the quality and completeness of the plan,” says Ulban.

    Unitil’s engineering department and its gas and electric operations functions required especially detailed BC plans, and the Sungard AS team pursued all the granular detail required to develop robust plans. 

    Plan development and refinement took place in early 2018, as each group of stakeholders reviewed their plans and worked with Ulban and Sungard AS to add and clarify content. Curious process owners also wanted to see what the other departments were saying was important to them. “There was a lot of collaboration after the interviews between process owners and especially with IT, where sharing knowledge helped uncover interdependencies and resolve open questions so we could update their plans and move on,” says Ulban.

    Putting plans to the test

    Once all the BC plans were reviewed and updated, it was time to test and validate business recovery strategies and capabilities. Ulban and Sungard AS designed a disruptive incident that would impact as many departments as possible. Process owners knew in advance there would be an exercise, but did not know the nature of it. Sungard AS conducted training sessions with process owners in advance to refresh all participants on how to use their plans.

    The test scenario centered on an early-morning fire that would affect two areas in Unitil’s Hampton, NH headquarters building—which also housed the primary data center. Employees arriving to work could not enter the building, due to the prospective smoke and water damage that would leave both business and IT operations out of commission for two to four weeks. “We run a number of exercises and evacuation drills each year, but this was the first time we told people they couldn’t go back in the building,” says Ulban.

    With their BC plans in hand, process owners worked together to address issues presented in the exercise. IT could follow its plans to bring up critical applications in the Concord, NH recovery data center 50 miles away. Unitil’s observers and the Sungard AS team watched the interaction and logged nine key observations that would require follow-up action.

    Benefit

    Confidence in a proven solution

    GFMS relies on the Sungard AS Recover to Cloud service, with critical business data replicated in real-time to the Sungard AS data center in Philadelphia. The replication covers the GFMS document imaging system, as well as its claims and accounting systems. The solution is automated and scalable, able to accommodate spikes in capacity that occur when GFMS takes on a newly insolvent insurer. GFMS also performs daily backups to data vaults in the GFMS data center and the Sungard AS data center.

    “It’s critical for the business to know that, no matter what, we can recover our data,” says Kotzev. “The fact that we have a proven, tested business continuity solution assures everyone that we’ll be there when we’re needed. We have winter storms here, and a hurricane just caused a major regional power outage. We have to be able to operate, and with Sungard AS we know that we can.”

    Workplace Recovery

    If a disaster impacts the GFMS offices, employees can continue essential business operations from the Sungard AS recovery center in Marlborough, MA, about 35 miles west of Boston. The workplace is sized to accommodate critical GFMS management and operations personnel, and provides infrastructure and connectivity required to continue to run the business. The workplace is tailored to GFMS requirements, and is even stocked with special inks that GFMS uses for the printed checks it issues.

    Kotzev notes that GFMS has eight boards of directors – one for each state association. “We’ve got nearly every insurance company represented on our boards, and they know that there is a guaranty fund system that works and protects not just the fund’s reputation, but the overall industry reputation as well.”

    logo-unitil-200x100

    As an electric and natural gas utility serving customers in three New England states, Unitil is acutely aware of the impact storms can have. With a company culture that prioritizes emergency response, every employee has an alternate assignment during storm events and other natural disasters to assure a fast, effective response and rapid service restoration for customers.

    To assure the resilience of its own critical systems and processes, Unitil approaches its business continuity (BC) program with the same dedication. In addition to its own BC activities, the company recently consulted with longtime partner ROI Communications, who recommended and engaged Sungard Availability Services® (Sungard AS) consultants to review its BC plans and guide investments to become even more resilient in the face of the unexpected.

    Results

    • Clear direction for BC program structure, plans and next steps
    • Validated and refined BC plans
    • A holistic view of BC risks and priorities across all departments
    • Targeted investments to achieve higher levels of resilience

    About Unitil

    Unitil is a public utility holding company with affiliates that serve approximately 105,000 electric customers and 81,300 natural gas customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

    Business resiliency is all about continuous improvement. It’s about planning the strategy and mitigation for an interruption, while at the same time looking forward and saying, ‘What can we do to prevent this in the future?

    Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance, Unitil

    n 2017, we were ready to bring in some external expertise to help us take the program to the next level. Our goal was to gain a holistic view of the BC program across all Unitil business areas and to set priorities for next steps. We looked at several third-party consultants and Sungard AS was the one that stood out. They demonstrated both the business continuity and disaster recovery expertise we needed.

    Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance, Unitil

    Taking business continuity to the next level

    When a 2008 ice storm devastated the above-ground utility infrastructure across the U.S. northeast, it left millions without power. Like other New England utility companies, Unitil dealt with the extensive damage. Taking the lessons learned to heart, in 2009 the company established a dedicated team to focus exclusively on emergency management and business continuity as part of a multi-year plan.

    The team’s first order of business was to reinvent the emergency response structure and culture across Unitil, establishing the storm roles that still exist for every employee today, reinforced by ongoing training and periodic drills and exercises.

    As an electric and gas company charged with delivering 24/7/365 service, Unitil knew its business operations needed to be equally resilient. The team’s business continuity (BC) efforts focused primarily on critical process recovery, while addressing the growth, IT complexity and regulatory challenges common to many organizations.

    “Unitil had grown through acquisitions, and we were managing BC plans for multiple operating companies and a mix of modern applications and legacy systems—plus assuring compliance with three different state utility regulators,” says Jacklyn Ulban, Manager of Business Resiliency and Compliance at Unitil.

    “Over several years, we built a solid framework for ongoing management of our BC program and plans,” she continues. “In 2017, we were ready to bring in some external expertise to help us take the program to the next level. Our goal was to gain a holistic view of the BC program across all Unitil business areas and to set priorities for next steps. We looked at several third-party consultants and Sungard AS was the one that stood out. They demonstrated both the business continuity and disaster recovery expertise we needed.”

    Services deployed

    Business Continuity Consulting

    • Review existing BC program policy and framework
    • Conduct Business Impact Analysis
    • Develop BC plans for 19 different business areas
    • Prepare a comprehensive DR plan
    • Conduct plan validation exercise
    • Create a detailed report with recommendations for next steps

    Assessing the existing program

    Ulban worked closely with Sungard AS consultants to ensure the project scope aligned with specific Unitil objectives. Following a kickoff meeting with the Unitil leadership team, the consultants reviewed the existing BC program.

    Through interviews and research into the company’s systems and processes, the consultants found a program that was running well, backed with a sophisticated SharePoint repository that housed BC plan templates and drove stakeholder collaboration. Further, they found that the program adhered to the requirements of the ISO 22301 standard for business continuity management systems. 

    The initial gap analysis—documenting applications and systems and the DR support that IT currently provided for each—was another important milestone. 

    “Their assessment was a validation of the years of work by many people to get the company to that point. It confirmed that we really had a good framework in place, and helped clarify what we needed to do to take it a step further.”

    Engaging stakeholders, analyzing impact

    Next, Sungard AS consultants conducted workshops with department leaders and key staff members across 19 business areas. The consultants applied a structured approach and proven methods to draw out critical information, then organized the results into two key documents: a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), and the initial drafts of the BC plans.

    The BIA identified and documented the critical processes for each business area, their corresponding recovery requirements, and the operational and financial impact if those processes were interrupted. It also considered the impact on Unitil’s customer service, contractual requirements and reputation, along with legal and regulatory concerns. 

    “We asked Sungard AS to focus on specific areas already identified as either the most critical, the most vulnerable, or the most highly impactful,” says Ulban. “We had all of this expertise and institutional knowledge in the room and the interviews were a huge learning opportunity. We were asking the process owners to take a step back and look at their operations—and also step up and take responsibility for their critical processes.”

    With the BIA, Unitil gained an essential foundation for the updated BC plans, as well as a way to prioritize future IT investments in disaster recovery.

    Developing BC plans

    The first plan that Sungard AS submitted for review covered a critical Unitil department: Customer Service. “We were very excited to see the quality and completeness of the plan,” says Ulban.

    Unitil’s engineering department and its gas and electric operations functions required especially detailed BC plans, and the Sungard AS team pursued all the granular detail required to develop robust plans. 

    Plan development and refinement took place in early 2018, as each group of stakeholders reviewed their plans and worked with Ulban and Sungard AS to add and clarify content. Curious process owners also wanted to see what the other departments were saying was important to them. “There was a lot of collaboration after the interviews between process owners and especially with IT, where sharing knowledge helped uncover interdependencies and resolve open questions so we could update their plans and move on,” says Ulban.

    Putting plans to the test

    Once all the BC plans were reviewed and updated, it was time to test and validate business recovery strategies and capabilities. Ulban and Sungard AS designed a disruptive incident that would impact as many departments as possible. Process owners knew in advance there would be an exercise, but did not know the nature of it. Sungard AS conducted training sessions with process owners in advance to refresh all participants on how to use their plans.

    The test scenario centered on an early-morning fire that would affect two areas in Unitil’s Hampton, NH headquarters building—which also housed the primary data center. Employees arriving to work could not enter the building, due to the prospective smoke and water damage that would leave both business and IT operations out of commission for two to four weeks. “We run a number of exercises and evacuation drills each year, but this was the first time we told people they couldn’t go back in the building,” says Ulban.

    With their BC plans in hand, process owners worked together to address issues presented in the exercise. IT could follow its plans to bring up critical applications in the Concord, NH recovery data center 50 miles away. Unitil’s observers and the Sungard AS team watched the interaction and logged nine key observations that would require follow-up action.

    Confidence in a proven solution

    GFMS relies on the Sungard AS Recover to Cloud service, with critical business data replicated in real-time to the Sungard AS data center in Philadelphia. The replication covers the GFMS document imaging system, as well as its claims and accounting systems. The solution is automated and scalable, able to accommodate spikes in capacity that occur when GFMS takes on a newly insolvent insurer. GFMS also performs daily backups to data vaults in the GFMS data center and the Sungard AS data center.

    “It’s critical for the business to know that, no matter what, we can recover our data,” says Kotzev. “The fact that we have a proven, tested business continuity solution assures everyone that we’ll be there when we’re needed. We have winter storms here, and a hurricane just caused a major regional power outage. We have to be able to operate, and with Sungard AS we know that we can.”

    Workplace Recovery

    If a disaster impacts the GFMS offices, employees can continue essential business operations from the Sungard AS recovery center in Marlborough, MA, about 35 miles west of Boston. The workplace is sized to accommodate critical GFMS management and operations personnel, and provides infrastructure and connectivity required to continue to run the business. The workplace is tailored to GFMS requirements, and is even stocked with special inks that GFMS uses for the printed checks it issues.

    Kotzev notes that GFMS has eight boards of directors – one for each state association. “We’ve got nearly every insurance company represented on our boards, and they know that there is a guaranty fund system that works and protects not just the fund’s reputation, but the overall industry reputation as well.”